An extract from his blog:
Over to the East the sun has begun to peep above the confluence of sea and sky. The sand is cold between the toes. 2,000 hardy souls stand in identical bright green swim caps on Tenby’s North beach. The seconds tick by and then at 7am a horn sounds and Ironman Wales is under way.
The massed ranks of spectators on the elevated promenade cannot make out the friends and loved ones they have come to cheer. Instead, they see a lemming like rush towards the water’s edge and beyond that the frothing sea churned by the wind milling of countless arms. And in that thrashing mass I fight for space, relax my breathing and try to slow my racing heart. A scene less reminiscent of the barely used and softly lit swimming pool in Shanghai where I had trained it is hard to imagine.
As the cold water begins to seep around my wetsuit I think of only two things. The buoy about ½ a mile to my left which marks my first turn and the promise I made to Anna Verrico. In my mind I run over a favourite Churchillian phrase and one which I will repeat many times over the next 14 hours. “All that is required for victory is perseverance. Never ever give up.” I shorten my stroke to militate against the choppy swell and, well, just get on with it.
A little over 1 hour and 20 minutes later I am running up the beach, through the crowds towards transition and the start of a 180km bike ride. My wonderful support team are there, cheering like mad and I am in high spirits. This feeling of optimism remains until around the 30km mark when the bike course turns rogue. Now it is all head-winds and pitilessly steep hills. A course less reminiscent of the softly undulating “alpine pass” option on the static bike in Shanghai upon which I trained it is hard to imagine. Still, I stamp on the pedals and tell my legs to shut up.
Then towards the end of the first lap a wonderful moment. The steep, narrow and windy road out of Saundersfoot is awash with spectators. The space left on the tarmac is only wide enough for the bikes to ascend in single file. There are flags everywhere, cow bells ring and there are messages chalked on the road. This is as close to riding the Tour de France as I will ever get. Best of all, I have to ride this viciously steep hill twice; a magical experience.
Entering the transition area for a second time my concentration lapses and I briefly think of all that sill lies ahead. Suddenly as I consider the 42.2kms run to come, and for the first time, I doubt myself. I am not sure that I can do it. Then, as clichéd as it sounds, lines from the poem “If” come unbidden into my mind….
“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them “Hold on””
Mr Kipling’s verse, much like his cakes, are less popular than they used to be, but this was probably the first poem my Mum had taught me. It gave me the courage to face primary school spelling tests and other moments of childhood pressure. It works again now. I lace up my trainers, take a deep breath and, well, just get on with it.
It is very hard at first, brutal and slow. Running has never been this difficult. Then I see my support team, still here, still cheering and I have completed the first lap of 6.5 miles. I straighten my back, stare into the mid-distance, 3 more laps to go and I know that I can do it.
The sun eventually dips below the Western horizon and I run on in the gathering gloom for the last few miles. No matter, the crowds are now raucous fortified as they are by a heady cocktail of beer and fish and chips.
The course wends its way through the town and I approach the finish. Turn left this time, not right. Then alone, astoundingly all alone, down the magic carpet for the final few metres. A man with a microphone declaims “Nicholas Cranfield, you are an ironman!” And then it is over, a medal round my neck and a smile on my face. Promise honoured and job done. Thank you Anna.